Monday, October 24, 2016

A Faith of Opposites

My father used to have a saying, “More hurry, less speed.” In other words, sometimes the more we rush around, the busier we get, the less progress we make. A whiz at fixing things, he’d learned the folly of hastening through a repair job and then having to go back to correct mistakes.

I’ve seen this in business when someone makes the decision, “Do something, anything, even if it’s wrong.” The problem with that is most of the time we later have to undo what we could have avoided, if only we had taken the time to evaluate the plan before initiating it.

During the days when I was an avid NASCAR fan, I heard the commentators explain that at times the fastest way around a track is to slow down a bit in the turns. I never tried it but suspect that’s probably true, even though it seems counterintuitive. The fable of the tortoise and the hare affirms this principle.

Some of us discovered that in the realm of romance, even though we might think it should be the opposite, sometimes the best way to get someone’s attention is to ignore them. We used to call it, “playing hard to get.”

Nowhere do we see this “rule of opposites” more clearly than in the Christian faith. Jesus was the champion of counterintuitive belief in action. For example, in the sixth chapter of the gospel of Luke, He devoted considerable time to this concept, saying in essence, “If you think you know what to do, do the opposite.” For example:
  • “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).
  • “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28).
  • “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic” (Luke 6:29).
  • “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back” (Luke 6:30).
Then He said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). These were radical words for Jesus’ time, and they remain just as radical today. Typically, our attitude seems to be, “Do unto others before they do unto you.”

Jesus went on to elaborate, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?” (Luke 6:32-33).

With His hearers chewing on such curious food for thought, Jesus concluded by saying, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35).

When you read those words, what’s your reaction? Do you think, “Sure, Jesus, no problem”? More likely we’re inclined to respond, “But Jesus, You have no idea what kind of people I have to put up with.” Then we remember, “Oh wait, He does!” His enemies, those that accused, cursed and mistreated Him, were the ones that refused to rest until He was crucified. We haven’t had to deal with hostility to that degree.

His response to them was exactly the opposite of what we would expect, the flip-flop of how we would have reacted. But Jesus should be our model, not some human leader that lashes out in vengeance when wronged. In fact, Hebrews 12:3 urges us to remember His example: Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

There are many other examples of our “faith of opposites” throughout the Scriptures. Jesus declared, “Whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25). Even being God incarnate, He stated, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45).

Jesus taught, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The apostle Paul, in contrast to his brash, self-righteous, forceful behavior before his encounter with Christ, affirmed, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Think on that for a minute.

So whenever we’re wondering what we should do – how we should act in our quest to live out our faith in Jesus Christ – it might help to ask ourselves, “What does impulse say that I should do?” And then, do the opposite.

No comments: